NORTH WILTSHIRE is a hotbed of sporting excellence – just ask the local council.

Last Thursday, nine aspiring young Olympians from the area each received a grant of £1,000 from the North Wilts District Council.

The list included Joe Hughes (18), the Malmesbury ABC and England U21 boxer; Katie Moffat, 14, from Stanton St Quintin, who came sixth in the British Artistic Gymnastic Championships; Britain’s U12 Rhythmic Gymnastic Champion Laura Halford from Cricklade and up-and-coming Hullavington-based eventer Alicia Hawker.

The brilliant initiative is the brainchild of North Wilts Sports Development Officer Alex Muse and is thought to be unique in the UK.

"Spotlight on Sporting Success, Olympic Grant Scheme" is designed to find talented athletes in North Wiltshire who have the potential to represent their country at London 2012.

Paul Langcaster, Press and Media Officer for North Wilts, said: "In the euphoria after our success in Beijing, Alex thought it would be a good idea to give some backing to the deserving young athletes in the area and the council readily agreed."

Such was the overwhelming response that North Wilts DC dipped deeper into its coffers and extended the number of grants from the original five to nine.

The winners collected their awards at a ceremony at Stanton Manor last week and also took part in a workshop on preparation for world class events hosted by the 2002 Commonwealth Games 4 x 400m relay silver medallist James Hillier.

Cllr Viv Vines said: "These awards will enable the successful individuals to attend national events, training camps and make a significant contribution towards the costs of elite competition."

Other winners: sprinter Elaine O’Neil from Chippenham; synchronized swimmer Isobel Collins from Christian Malford, canoeist James Webster from Calne, clay pigeon shot Claire Weston also from Calne and ice skater Isabella Larkin from Lydiard Millicent.